Government transparency is essential to maintaining an open and accountable democratic system. Transparency ensures that citizens can access information on how their government operates, and holds government officials accountable for their actions. It helps to prevent corruption and abuse of power, and promotes trust and confidence in the government.  

Without transparency, citizens are unable to make informed decisions about the policies and actions of their government. It also allows for the potential for government officials to act in their own self-interest, potentially at the expense of the public. When the government operates behind closed doors, it can be difficult to hold officials accountable for their actions, making it easier for corruption and abuse of power to go undetected. To address these issues, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was developed.   

This act provides citizens with the right to access information held by federal agencies. FOIA allows for greater transparency in government operations and helps to ensure accountability. It enables citizens to request information on government decisions, policies, and actions, which in turn fosters greater trust and confidence in the government. Signed into law in 1967, it’s been replicated in all states under various names, including “Sunshine Laws.”  

FOIA, and other records requests, serve as a vital tool for investigative journalists, academics, and other watchdog organizations to hold the government accountable. These processes are an essential tool for understanding the state of health and healthcare in US carceral facilities. These notoriously opaque institutions wield outsized power over the health of millions of people annually. 

In our endeavor to track carceral health, the 3rd City Project issued records requests to every state and territorial DOC in the country. Data collected through this process is used to fill gaps in the data caused by systems that do not share this information forthrightly. Our requests are submitted and tracked via, a platform that posts responsive documents online for all to see.  

To learn how to submit your request, find your state on the National Freedom of Information Coalition website and read more at the Prison Policy Initiative.